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No Charter change until Arroyo ends term
« on: November 21, 2008, 06:20:42 PM »
MANILA, Philippines -- The Constitution should not be tinkered with, at least until President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ends her term in 2010, members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Friday.

"This is not the time for a change especially during the time of this administration because there is self interest [involved] and it is not too good for the country. So if there are moves [toward Charter change] I don’t think, this is my personal opinion, I don’t think the CBCP will support it," said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Bioethics.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a known critic of Arroyo, warned of probable protests should the administration push efforts to change the Charter. He said he belongs to some 50 groups he expects will start discussing the issue.

"They are pushing for a con-ass [constituent assembly], do you expect us coming out now? No, but I have a group of 50 religious social and civil movements and I'm sure they are all over the communications line now calling for emergency meetings," Cruz told in a phone interview.

He accused Malacañang of being "very decided and seriously committed" to have Arroyo’s term extended beyond 2010, when her constitutionally mandated six years end, and noted what he called "the confluence of events" that indicated this supposed intent.

Earlier this week, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile replaced Senator Manuel Villar as Senate president. The on Thursday, reports said Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, the President’s son, had secured between 120 and 150 signatures on a resolution calling on the Senate and the House to amend the Constitution by convening as a constituent assembly and voting jointly, not separately.

"Malacañang controls Congress, Malacañang now recently got the Senate presidency, and Malacañang is counting on the Supreme Court being staffed by all GMA [Arroyo’s initials] appointees except the incumbent Chief Justice who has an independent judicial mind," he said.

He added Press Secretary Jesus Dureza's prayer at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, in which he wished Arroyo would continue ruling beyond her term, was also a sign.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez seconded Cruz's opinion and called on the public to be vigilant.

"Well my personal stand is, this is again one of those moves trying to prolong the term of the incumbent president. I hope people become aware [about] the move in the House and it is up to the people," Iniguez said.

Although Iñiguez acknowledged the "Constitution is not perfect" and that there is "always room for amending [the] Constitution," it should not be done while Arroyo is in power.

"Wrong timing in our thinking because there are very ripe speculations government will make use of constitutional amendments for own purposes," he said in a phone interview.(

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